Tag Archives: Baz Luhrmann

The Great Gatsby – Review #film #filmreview

16 May

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An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Long Island-set novel, follows mid-Westerner Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he documents his lavish encounters with neighbour Jay Gatsby; who seems to have all the wealth and wonder in the world, but remains childishly unsatisfied without one thing, the woman he adores, Daisy (Carey Mulligan).

Following all the hype about the decadence of this film, fans of Baz Luhrmann’s work will not be disappointed with the spectacle that this film delivers in the first half at least. Taking the concept of the ‘roaring twenties’ to its literal extreme, as the film begins you are introduced to a booming New York full of promise, prosperity and parties! Intercutting re-purposed original footage with some of Luhrmann’s newly developed settings; the audience follows Nick Carraway as he discovers and becomes a part of this world. Slowly, through the eyes of Nick, we discover the main nouveau rich players in this story, starting with Nick’s cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 11.52.04

Upon entering this world, we are faced with an immense sense of overwhelming intensity, the editing is fast paced from one character to the other and at times you’ll feel breathless trying to keep up. You will find yourself trying to take in the scenery in front of your eyes and attempt to keep up with the storyline as well. This puts you straight in Nick’s shoes, a new world, new people and a whole new lifestyle.

Tom Buchanan is expertly played by Joel Edgerton, and is dominating in every scene, bringing a sense of rich, butch, manliness, which is neither Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 11.52.21endearing nor trustworthy. With him is Daisy, brought to life by Carey Mulligan, an interesting choice for the part, she makes a promising entrance making the character feel care free and wistful as we meet her – quite like a bubblegum princess – but as the film progresses ever so slightly fails to demonstrate the complexities and shallowness of the literary Daisy that fans of the book will have built in their minds. Alongside these characters is Jordan Baker (newcomer Elizabeth Debriki), Daisy’s best friend, this other than Gatsby is probably the best casting of the whole film – looking like a real product of the time and acting with the arrogance and elegance you would expect from a flapper socialite. Debriki carries herself in a scene-stealing manner that, like Edgerton, dominates any screen time she has.

Onto the main man, for a modern day Jay Gatsby, Leonardo Di Caprio is the best choice. Smart, mysterious, yet at times vulnerable with a buffoon like quality; the moment the actor raises a glass to the crescendo of music with a beaming smile at one of his lavish parties, you can only imagine teenage girls once again placing posters of this man up on their wall as teenagers of over fifteen years ago did with his last outing with Luhrmann.

Bringing all these characters together really does make one hell of a party, and if there’s one person who likes to put on a party bigger than Jay Gatsby, its Baz Luhrmann. This is what the audiences are most looking forward to out of his films, and if we’re honest, this is what the film is entirely sold on. Three scenes of stunning clothing, expensive jewelry, amazing choreography and stereotypical nods to the era that had it all. Once the audience is introduced to the world of Jay Gatsby’s parties, you really see the trademark Luhrmann come to life.

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 As much as this spectacle is what Luhrmann fans are craving, the novelty can only go so far. Part of the films downfall is its pressing focus on style. Sadly there is not enough substance to support it. Throughout the second half of the film, the parties dim down and you are left with the love triangle story. When you watch it unfold, you become more attuned to the flaws in the film.

Firstly, the extravagant sets that populate the initial part of the film feel more contrived and fake, as there are less people in the room. You find yourself feeling like you are watching a play, with purpose-built backgrounds and a very clear distinction between what is a real location set and what is constructed. Once you see this, you feel that there are more contrived elements to the film, everything is so detailed and so precise – particularly thinking back to the blocking of every character from extra to main – Looking back at Luhrmann’s other films, particularly Moulin Rouge, he managed to create a fake Paris that felt real, you could almost smell the stinking sewers of Montmartre and taste the champagne being poured into the glasses on screen, perhaps it was the limitations on technology that allowed him to be more artistically experimental and in this case as more has been offered to Luhrmann on a plate, it feels like he’s used it because he can and not because it’s right. Whatever the reason, with The Great Gatsby, something just doesn’t quite marry up – and this is similar to the issues that one may find with Joe Wrights Anna Karenina.

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 11.45.50Alongside this, you feel so distracted by the set that the fundamental plot line gets lost, and where you would expect to feel real emotion towards the situation Jay and Daisy are in, and build dislike towards Daisy’s fickle nature, you just don’t care. There are tender moments, such as when they meet once again after five years, and this is where DiCaprio shines with relatable buffoonery and nervousness. But that is about it, suddenly there is a lacking of focus and complexity within the acting and you do feel like the actors are sadly moving around a room to hit their mark and deliver their lines, rather than providing a real rival performance to the Redford/Farrow Great Gatsby that people know and love. Perhaps a much simpler setting could have allowed time to focus on the real story at the heart, and provide a more complex character study, which those fans of the book will crave more.

Depending on what you’re looking forward to most within this film, you’ll either love The Great Gatsby for its decadence or loathe it for its lacking in substance. Whichever way you look at it, you’ll definitely be seeing something different to what is in the cinema at the moment. However, The Great Gatsby is another problematic product of too much hype in the build up and not enough clout in the end product. Fans of Luhrmann’s work will enjoy seeing him bring another film to the cinema screens, however may still feel he peaked at Moulin Rouge and has struggled to live up to that success ever since. But if there’s one thing you do take away and treasure forever from this film, it’s the incredible soundtrack, just like Baz intended; it’s the perfect accompaniment to any party.

3 Stars.

Here’s the latest from The Great Gatsby premiere at the Cannes Film Festival…

 

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Brand New The Great Gatsby Posters

12 Apr

So who’s excited for the film extravaganza that is The Great Gatsby next month? Well prepare yourself to get even more excited as some new (and gorgeous) posters have just been released.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Django Unchained – The D is Silent…

23 Jan

 

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Up for five Academy Awards this year, and already a Golden Globe in the bag for supporting actor Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained really is playing the underdog game well and becoming a strong force to be reckoned with.  With its bold slavery storyline, homage to Spaghetti Westerns and signature Tarantino style, this film see’s its director assemble a stellar cast and return to his Pulp Fiction best.

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.39.48The film is essentially split into two stories. The first, being the uniting and unlikely friendship between a German Bounty Hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), and slave turned bounty hunter Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx).  The second, being the quest to find Django’s slave wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who is being held by a brutal plantation owner in Mississippi.

From the outset, Tarantino puts his personal spin on this big issue of slavery and plants it in the Deep South in an exciting modern Western format. Having heard some time ago about Tarantino’s plans to make this movie, I felt it was an interesting and exciting move, but with unpredictability from audiences, Django Unchained was never going to sit in the middle of people’s opinions. But I am pleased to report that in my book, it is being hailed more as a triumph with controversy rather than a failed attempt.

The many great things about this film begin with the performances. Christoph Waltz shone so brilliantly in Inglorious Bastards and he continues his Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.38.33‘Best Supporting‘ competition campaign in this film. From start to finish he embodies the unassuming Dr. King Schultz with a jolly European elegance that you can’t help but find endearing, even when at his most violent and unforgiving. Jamie Foxx is perfect casting as the titular character, and I doubt there has ever been a remorseless revenge hero quite so straight faced as he is throughout this film – when he finally cracks a satisfied smile in the end scene the relief is welcomed with open arms. Letting Schultz do the majority of the talking on his behalf so he can play the sultry side-kick, allows this duo to work together in harmony as both a ruthless partnership in the first half and with genuine comradery in the second.

In addition to these drivers of the narrative, Leonardo Di Caprio plays so against type in this film it’s genius. Girls who grew up falling in love with him in Baz Luhrmanns’ Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t, after watching this film, entertain being in the same plantation let alone the same room with his repugnant, baby-faced, spoilt and menacing Calvin J. Candie. This role shows DiCaprio switch from upper classed Southern-drawl charmer to manipulating and loathed sadist – a role every actor would have desired but few would have been able to accomplish quite in this way. Just as Django and Schultz have an unlikely partnership, so does Calvin Candie and Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), the cheeky Head of the Household at Candyland who demonstrates that not all slaves are fighting for the same cause necessarily, and that this is a world where even the slightest bit of privilege may skew the utilitarian factor from his mindset.  Throughout the upcoming awards season, one can only wish that there would have been room for more nominations for supporting cast members as they were all so brilliantly portrayed.

In terms of directing duties, what Tarantino does brilliantly here, is provide not only a great epic American Western with fantastically well thought out Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.37.34characters and intriguing plotlines, but he also shows both the best and very worst of the human spirit – Christoph Waltz’s democratic Dr Schultz, who cared not for the colour of the skin but only the good of the job, and Calvin Candie’s degrading abuse of his slaves show the two extremes here very cleverly. Tarantino also manages to balance the humour, making us laugh at the most absurd scenes and allowing audiences to question and second-guess themselves after viewing the film – the Klu Klux Klan scenario is a good example of this type of humour, and is one of the best scenes of the whole film.

So what is bad about this film? Well, firstly it’s long, just how long is one of the many jaw-dropping moments presented when you check your watch as you peel yourself out of your seat once the lights go up. But actually, upon reflection, you’ll find it hard to discover many wasted minutes. Every part of the dialogue is carefully constructed and thought out, and although there are slower parts, they are necessary to provide a pathway towards the more climactic moments.

Secondly, it’s violent, but what did you expect? It is Tarantino after all, and if you learned anything from Kill Bill, it’s that Tarantino likes adding in the gore element – but in Django Unchained, you wont see any group slaughter scenes in black and white to shade the violence. However, like in some of Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.39.06his earlier films, the end shoot out is almost so grotesque that you don’t wince when watching it, as it doesn’t evoke that kind of reaction because it is so expected of Tarantino. Equally, the more brutal parts are implied rather than shown in full i.e.: the slave and the dogs, so you are shocked by the horror of it happening but not by seeing it on screen. But what we must remember is that this isn’t just Tarantino going for a shock factor joy ride with his film making, in fact, Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s indulged in extreme violence, and to pay proper homage to that era Tarantino is bringing some of that cinematic history to the modern stage.

Finally, the extended use of the ‘N-word’ has been steeped in controversy, however when you’re not seeing slaves pulled apart by each other in a death match or set on by dogs it’s a necessary reminder of the horrors of slavery and not a tip toeing premise to hide behind. As with the rest of Tarantino’s portfolio of work, if he’s going to tackle a topic be it Nazi Germany or the Deep South, he does it full throttle.

So should you go watch this film? For Tarantino fans this is a must, when questions started to arise about this director through his Grindhouse homage phase that didn’t quite hit the mark, rest assured that he has steadily been building up to this crescendo, lets hope his future projects maintain this level of courage and craft.

 

 

 

Ones to watch in 2013…

5 Jan

Happy New Year Film Fans!

So it’s been a great 2012 in the world of film, and to properly finish it off, I was lucky enough to feature on Channel 5 News at the end of December to chat about my favourite Christmas film to watch over the festive period. I decided that my top two films had to be those that were most nostalgic and memorable to me rather than those that were just critically acclaimed, and I’m sure a lot of twenty-somethings who grew up with these films will probably feel the same.

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So, I chose, first and foremost, Home Alone – the star making turn from Macaulay Culkin. I remember everything about this film, from the opening musical score to the amazing traps Kevin McAllister managed to set for bungling burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. This is a film, which turns aScreen Shot 2013-01-04 at 14.03.19potentially tragic circumstance into something that becomes one of the most well remembered modern slapstick Christmas comedies of all time.

The other film that is important to me, but not always remembered as a Christmas film (but most certainly is), is Hook. Robin Williams plays the boy who actually did grow up, and it’s a tale of self-belief and acceptance with a lot of fun thrown in. Again, it’s a star-studded cast with Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins and Dustin Hoffman easily putting any panto Captain Hook to shame. It’s a film that I have always returned to and watched, again, and again and again, and will probably always continue to do so.

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 14.04.02 Anyway, if you managed to catch these two films over the Xmas period, well done you… you took my good advice, and if you don’t have these in your Blu-Ray or DVD collection, go get them in the January sales – they should be staple additions to your collection! But its 2013 now, and what a year of films we have ahead.

Hope you’re excited, if not, I wanted to share a list of my most anticipated films for the first half of the year, so you know what you have to look forward to over the next six months:

Les Miserables

Musical Theatre fans need wait no longer for this luscious retelling of the Victor Hugo book/Cameron MacKintosh stage phenomenon. I’ve seen it, and as a massive fan of the show liked it, but never the less managed to still pick holes in the fact that its never quite going to live up to the musical that I love and admire so dearly.

This film will be a must see for any fans of the show, and for anyone new and intrigued about this concept, you’ll be viewing an almost certain Oscar winning performance from Anne Hathaway as Fantine, and will hopefully enjoy this star-studded cast lead by Hollywood favourite Hugh Jackman. But be prepared, it’s verging on the three-hour mark, with little spoken dialogue and no interval!

For my full review check out my earlier blog post:  https://rebeccaperfectfilmpresenter.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/476/

Les Miserables hits cinema screens 11th January 2013

Django Unchained

It may contain a silent “d” but Django Unchained is causing plenty of controversy over its extensive use of the “N” word in this  American slavery based story. Starring firm favourites Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, and Christoph Waltz, this most certainly should be a must for any Tarantino fans – and I will be front of the queue.

Hailed as one of Tarantino’s best films by those who have seen it, it’s probably not for the faint hearted but will be an interesting and daring take on a very difficult subject matter.

Django Unchained hits cinemas 18th January 2013.

Zero Dark Thirty

Remember when The Hurt Locker came out and the Oscars hosted the biggest David and Goliath showdown between Avatar director and “King of the World” James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow? Well triumphant Bigelow is back with a bold production looking at Al-Quaeda terrorism and the hunt for the most dangerous man in the world.

Starring Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton, Zero Dark Thirty is already causing considerable awards buzz and as the critics screenings have just started we are starting to see the influx of glowing reviews as well as some further questioning from government forces into the level of  information exchanged between Bigelow’s team and the CIA – which probably means this film is verging more on fact than fiction and that we should probably keep a keen eye out when watching.

If you remain intrigued, then you only have to wait until the end of the month as Zero Dark Thirty hits cinema screens on 25th January 2013. Watch out Homeland…

Warm Bodies

I really hope this doesn’t turn out to be a big, fat, zombie turkey, because the trailer looks lots of fun. Nicholas Hoult moves on from Skins, About a Boy and UK territory altogether as he takes on this lead in this adaptation from the popular Issac Marion book of the same name.

The basic premise is that a zombie manages to prove that he’s not all gore and stunted walking as he falls in love with a human girl and gradually cures himself as a result – what will happen to the rest of the human race? We’ll just have to see…but rest assured it will probably be better than Hoult’s other 2013 film – Jack and the Giant Killer!

Warm Bodies ventures on to our cinema screens on the 8th February 2013.

The Great Gatsby

Speaking of book adaptations, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s classic has had a few re-tellings, but if Baz Luhrmann is anything to go by, this is going to be a Moulin Rouge visual feast…lets just hope it has substance to its style.

The trailer looks magnificent, and with a star-studded cast such as Leonardo DiCaprio in the titular role, Tobey Maguire as Nick, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not this takes its place as the biggest film of Summer 2013.

The Great Gatsby swings onto cinema screens ever so stylishly on the 17th May 2013.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

If you, like me, were pleasantly surprised by JJ Abrams re-versioning of this sci-fi series, then you’ll be just as excited to see what the directors next installment has in store for us all.

With the ever cryptic addition of British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (yes Sherlock fans get excited) as one of the baddies, it will be great to see what happens as Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto once again feed into the “Captains log” (sorry!) with their next adventure.

Star Trek into Darkness hits screens on 17th May 2013

Man of Steel

We’ll sort of forgive Zack Snider for Sucker Punch, now that he’s under the close watch of Christopher Nolan for Man of Steel. The trailer looks Batman Begins esq – so I can’t help but feel uber excited for this. Superman isn’t one of DC Comic’s best superheroes in my opinion, but over the years most of the films have done ok…

Hopefully Man of Steel will launch Clapham boy Henry Cavill to the A-List and no longer will he be losing out as one of the last two at every audition he attends (this happened apparently in Bond and Twilight amongst others – poor boy!) Plus the ever diverse Amy Adams steps up as Lois Lane – cannot wait!!

Man of Steel flies into action on 14th June 2013.

 

So just a few snippets of big ones to watch over the next six months. There’s also lots of offerings from World War Z through to Pacific Rim, Oblivion, Evil Dead and Welcome to the Punch – 2013 is shaping up to be a very strong year for films, so as ever, enjoy watching all is on offer, I know I will!

 

BFI Day 5 – Coriolanus – Ralph Fiennes sits in the directors chair for this Shakespeare Adaptation

17 Oct

Lining up a stellar cast for not the easiest of Shakespearean adaptations must have been daunting for Ralph Fiennes, but as he put it at  the press conference, he was obsessed with this character and how relevant the play is to our modern society. That is the beauty of Shakespeare, its adaptability and ability to impact audiences around the world year after year and in so many different forms.

I wonder how difficult it must have been for Fiennes to pitch this to the financiers though, as on paper its not a well known play, its dark, aggressive and political. However when you know that Vanessa Redgrave is on board as well as Brian Cox and the then unknown Jessica Chastain – you must be on to a winner. Gerard Butler may have been somewhat of a wildcard in the first instance due to his action and rom-com notoriety however if you watch the film, you’ll notice how he holds his own just fine amongst these distinguished thesps!

The setting is Serbia, Belgrade in the midst of political turmoil and uprising against Coriolanus. The Serbian actors in the film adapt to the prose expertly and provide small but valuable parts in the film. The action, particularly at the beginning of the film is electrifying – particularly in a cinema surrounding and you feel like you are a part of the warfare yourself. You get inside the skin of Coriolanus, brilliantly portrayed by Fiennes.

However, it may have been the time of day in which the film was shown, but there was a considerable lull in the middle of the film. For wider audiences this is no Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, it was never an easy play to take to, and despite Ralph Fiennes valiant attempt – it just misses the mark. The real star of the show is Vanessa Redgrave, there have to be Oscar bells ringing, this performance is one all actors should watch and aspire to emulate in their careers, a real master at work – particularly in her closing speech. This film has all the right tools to make it magical but is just a very near miss. Die Hard Shakespeare fans may love it, I’m not sure, but for the wider cinema going public, I’m not so sure.

It still however managed to successfully pull in the crowds at the premiere and hopefully thats a reflection of the same level of people that will support this film. We’ll have to wait and see. Its out on UK general release on the 20th January 2012.